Monday, October 26, 2009

Eating Orlando Road Trip: Tampa Bay's Best Burger?

In this month’s poll, we’re searching for Orlando’s best burger. As a control, I thought it would be a good idea to head over to the bay area to try Tampa’s best burger. I’ve heard a lot about Square One Burgers, a upscale, gourmet burger restaurant that opened in 2008. Having heard that it was a cool place, and having heard nothing but praise for its lineup of burgers, I had to give it a try. Tampa’s a long way to drive for a burger, so luckily there was also a U2 concert involved as motivation for the trip.

The U2 show was awesome. Square One Burgers, not so much.

I really liked the restaurant. I really liked our server. I really liked the menu. I really wanted to like my burger. Unfortunately, it was served a sloppy mess, and accompanied by greasy, cold fries.

Our server recommended the Buffalo Bob ($1.99), ground buffalo meat topped with applewood-smoked bacon, onion rings and spicy beer cheese sauce served on a sesame seed bun. It sounded great, but I find buffalo meat to sometimes be dry. I asked if it could be served with ground beef instead of buffalo. I would think so, since ground beef is cheaper than ground buffalo. Our server said it was not okay, but that I could order a regular burger and add toppings (at $1.25 a piece) to make a similar burger. Okay…

Well, the burger I was served was big, and boy was it juicy. And sloppy. And messy. And impossible to eat but with a knife and fork. After a few minutes of struggling to eat it, I was left with a mound of soggy buns, onion rings and cheese sauce covering an excellent patty of medium-cooked ground Angus beef. Had this been an actual “burger,” it would have been pretty darn good.

Not to be outdone, the fries were just as soggy, but also cold.

My fellow U2 fanatic, and dining companion, ordered the Decadent Burger ($13.99), a Kobe beef burger with caramelized onions, curly leaf lettuce, brie and sundried tomato mayonnaise on a Kaiser bun. Although smaller than my burger, the Kobe burger was an actual eat-with-your-hands burger. My companion noted that, while the burger was good, there were immediately at least three or four superior burgers in Orlando that came to mind.

The Fried Jalapenos Chips that started the meal were excellent, and a real bargain at $1.99 for a tall cone of them. I liked the peppercorn ranch sauce for dipping.

For dessert, the Three Mini Cupcake Sampler ($3.50) was a disappointment. You can get the same cupcakes at Sam’s Club (and maybe they did).

The dining room had a great feel: roomy, modern and comfortable. There was a mixed crowd, with a few families, but it was mostly twenty and thirty somethings grabbing a burger before the U2 show. With a nice beer and wine selection, the bar area was packed.

Our server was very friendly and quick to make suggestions, but could have used a little more training on the menu. We felt very welcomed, however, and that went a long way.

I would give Square One Burgers another shot. I like the idea of an upscale burger bistro. Wish we had one in Orlando. Maybe I’d stick to a plain old burger next time. Or maybe I wouldn’t. That burger was quite a mess. But the meat was good. Maybe I would. Square One Burgers, I can’t live with our without you.

Note: The burgers aren’t square, but the plates are (cute, huh?)

2 ½ Beefs (the grievance, not the meat) out of 5

Square One Burgers
3701 Henderson Blvd.
Tampa, FL 336098

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